Considering nature at the heart of our buildings

As an industry, the Australian built environment has committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050 and is already working collaboratively to hit these targets through the uptake of Green Star in office buildings and beyond.

Tackling climate change and slashing energy emissions has been engrained in the GBCA’s purpose since our establishment as an organisation in 2002, but now, we’re incorporating a focus on nurturing the natural environment in the way we build.

Australia is home to some of the world’s most unique and awe-inspiring flora and fauna and we believe that as our population increases and cities develop, it’s our responsibility to protect it.

We’ve just released a landmark discussion paper to industry, Building with nature, which presents biodiversity as a priority for minimising impact on the ecological value of the cities and communities we’re building in.

According to the Department of Environment and Energy’s Fiona Beynon, also the primary author of Building with Nature, 30 per cent of our threatened species populations are in cities, so how can we ensure we protect them through biodiversity?

“There are many ways that ecosystem services and green infrastructure support sustainability in the built environment.

“For example, ecosystem services such as wetlands, and green infrastructure such as bioswales, provide alternative solutions for the management of stormwater events,” explains Fiona.

“Biodiversity also plays a significant role in reducing heat stress in the built environment, whether it be individual trees or vegetative cover.

“Biodiversity and green spaces also supports threatened species in the city scape, provides for visual amenity, improves liveability, and provides for improved mental and physical health outcomes for the people who live and work in cities,” she continues.

Fiona believes that in order for the industry to embrace biodiversity as a key consideration in green building, we need a refocus and that’s where Green Star Future Focus comes in.

“Looking to the future, we’ll see the Green Star credit scheme change to place more emphasis on the value of biodiversity.

“That’s been our purpose over the last year in bringing Building with nature to life.

“It outlines the role of biodiversity and its benefits, details key principles to guide the formation of credits for biodiversity, and recommends steps to take in order to value, enhance and maintain biodiversity in the built environment.”

And there’s certainly no shortage of examples we can look to in terms of how the built environment and its natural surroundings can benefit from each other.

Sydney Olympic Park in Western Sydney, one of the city’s biggest sporting and entertainment precincts, spans over 40 hectares of parklands.

Its Brickpit Ring Walk towers almost 19 metres above a pond that is home to the endangered Green and Golden Bell Frog.

Fiona says that it’s our role as an industry to pave the way for our flora and fauna to flourish as our cities grow.

“We need to acknowledge the role and benefits of biodiversity; to act as its champion and educate others on the its full suite of benefits.  

“There’s an opportunity for practitioners to find innovative ways that biodiversity can contribute to a range of improved outcomes and tangible savings for the built environment and its community.”

The Building with Nature Discussion Paper and Executive Summary are now available.